In November Minnesotans will be voting on voting. It’s important that they read the entire language of the proposed “voter ID” amendment. We have included the language of the amendment below.
In addition to this page, please consider watching this three minute video created by Minnesota Public Radio.
Why does CEIMN put quotes around “voter ID” amendment? Most people do not know of subsection (c) of the proposed amendment. That subsection does not mention a voter photo ID requirement. Because of subsection (c), CEIMN has determined that the amendment is not just about voter photo ID.
The proposed amendment (this is not on the ballot):
(b) All voters voting in person must present valid government-issued photographic identification before receiving a ballot. The state must issue photographic identification at no charge to an eligible voter who does not have a form of identification meeting the requirements of this section. A voter unable to present government-issued photographic identification must be permitted to submit a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot must only be counted if the voter certifies the provisional ballot in the manner provided by law.
(c) All voters, including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted.
The question on the ballot is:
Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?
If you just look at the question on the ballot, it may first appear to be all about photo ID, but if you read the exact language of the proposed "photo ID" amendment, you may be asking yourself, "What does 'substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification' mean?"
In fact, on April 4 on the Senate Floor, Senator Newman stated that the word “equivalent” was removed from one part of the proposed amendment because,
“… for purposes of a Constitutional amendment if we put in the bill the word equivalent what we are really doing is building in an ambiguity which is exactly what we were trying to avoid. …. And the conclusion we had was that by adding the word equivalent we would be adding confusion, ambiguity, and excess verbiage so consequently the language is no longer in the bill.”
The word, equivalent, remains in another part of the proposed amendment as does the confusion and ambiguity.
If we don't know exactly what it means, we shouldn't put it in our Constitution. For example, within the United States Constitution the 26th Amendment was clear--it focused on age. And the 19th Amendment focused on gender. You read them and you know what they mean. But, the language that is being proposed for the Minnesota Constitution really is up to interpretation.
If this passes all voters--including those who are not voting in person--must be subject to substantially equivalent identity verification. How can an absentee voter--say a Peace Corps Volunteer--be verified in a manner that is the substantial equivalent of a voter standing in front of an election judge?
Some people point to other states and photo identity requirements. There’s a difference between what has happened in other states and what is proposed in Minnesota—every state that has a photo ID requirement has exemptions. For example, in both Indiana and Pennsylvania, people who are poor never need to get a photo ID. But, the proposal in Minnesota focuses on all voters, thus it does not allow for exemptions.
If you follow this link, you can learn about the exemptions in other states and why they couldn’t apply to what is being proposed in Minnesota.
Some people may think that a showing a photo ID to vote is not a big deal. However, embedding this type of requirement into the Constitution is a big deal. No other state has implemented a voter photo ID requirement by constitutional mandate. (Mississippi has passed it but has not implemented it. What they passed differs greatly from what is proposed in Minnesota--they included exemptions and they did not have "substantially equivalent identity verification" as part of the constitutional mandate.)
The very fact that there is a debate about how the elections amendment would be implemented means that it lacks clarity. Voters really don't know how it will be implemented.
You may also be interested in reading this article in the Star Tribune, which was written by former State Senator Jack Davies. He was the drafter of the form and structure rewrite of the Minnesota Constitution ratified in 1974
Many people only focus on the cost of providing a free ID to voters, but there are other costs that need to be considered.
In September 2012, CEIMN and Hamline University professor, David Schultz, released a report, The Cost of the Proposed Elections Amendment. If passed, it is estimated that state and local governments will need to spend between $36.5 million and $77.6 million to comply with its likely requirements and individuals who currently lack government photo identification will need to spend between $16 million and $72 million to get the documents necessary for the free ID if they wish to vote.
Doug Chapin, an elections expert, from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs discussed the cost issue with Minnesota Public Radio, in the story, Chapin: Voter ID amendment has 'hidden costs.' The conclusion of the story is that, a fiscal note from Minnesota Management and Budget found that the price tag depends on the details approved in the legislative session after the amendment is approved by voters.”
While we do not know what kind of government-issued photo ID would be valid, if the amendment passes, we might find clues in the 2011 vetoed voter photo ID bill, which was proposed by the same person who proposed the 'photo ID' amendment. In the vetoed bill the only types of IDs that would be valid were:
A military ID, U.S. Passport and college/university student IDs would not have have been valid. Furthermore, if a voter moved, even it was down the hall of an apartment or dorm, the ID would no longer be valid.
In February 2012, the Minnesota Office of the Secretary of the State released district-level numbers of already registered voters throughout Minnesota who do not have a valid photo ID based on the vetoed legislation. They did this by matching voter registration names and addresses with Department of Vehicle Services data.
A map, with that data, was created by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. This demonstrates that every county in Minnesota will be impacted by a voter photo ID, although some have greater numbers of people without valid photo IDs.
A voter photo ID will only prevent voter impersonation. As documented in CEIMN’s 2010 report, Facts about Ineligible Voting and Voter Fraud in Minnesota, there is no problem with voter impersonation in Minnesota.
On March 13, 2012, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder discussed the Department of Justice’s review Texas’ voter photo ID law and noted that Texas never made the case for the need for a voter photo ID. He also explains the impact of a voter photo ID requirement.
And, on August 12, 2012, News21 reported that it found 10 cases of voter impersonation out of 146 million registered voters nationwide. That’s about 0.0000067 percent of all registered voters. Read the report, Comprehensive Database of U.S. Voter Fraud Uncovers No Evidence That Photo ID Is Needed, by clicking here.
CEIMN created this quiz as a tool to help voters learn more about the “voter ID” amendment as well as the 2011 vetoed voter photo ID bill. Because the vetoed 2011 bill had the same House author, there may be clues in the intent behind the amendment.
If you follow this link, you will find a list of newspapers that have endorsed a "no" vote. We've included links to the articles so you can read the reasons behind the decision. Thus far, over ten newspapers including the Star Tribune, Duluth News Tribune, New Ulm Journal, St. Cloud Times, and the Albert Lea Tribune have endorsed no.
While there has a plethora of reports about the negative impact a voter photo ID would have on specific populations of Americans there has yet to be conclusive and verifiable proof that a voter ID will improve the integrity of elections. In fact, when barriers are put into place that prevent voters from the ballot box, the outcome of an election is no longer the voice of all eligible voters, the outcome is just the voice of people who were not impacted by unnecessary barriers.
It is critically important that any changes to election law is based on fact---not on rumors. This is eloquently expressed in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964):
Undoubtedly, the right of suffrage is a fundamental matter in a free and democratic society. Especially since the right to exercise the franchise in a free and unimpaired manner is preservative of other basic civil and political rights, any alleged infringement of the right of citizens to vote must be carefully and meticulously scrutinized.